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The United Kingdom begins voting on Thursday morning in a general election that promises to end 14 tumultuous years of Conservative rule, in favor of a victory that promises to be historic for the Labour Party led by Keir Starmer.

The Brexit rifts, the haphazard management of the Covid pandemic, soaring prices and rising poverty, public hospitals on their last legs, the waltz of Prime Ministers… The succession of crises since 2010 has given rise to such a desire for change that the Conservatives admitted in recent days that they were fighting not to win but to try to limit the majority promised to Labour.

Barring any unexpected developments, it will be Keir Starmer, an austere 61-year-old former human rights lawyer, who will be tasked by King Charles III on Friday with forming a government, after bringing his party back to the centre-left and promising a return to “seriousness” in power.

“The United Kingdom can now open a new chapter. A new era of hope and opportunity after 14 years of chaos and decline,” assured this MP, who entered politics only nine years ago, before the vote opened, urging the British to go to the polls.

Polls opened at 7:00 a.m. (6:00 a.m. GMT) and closed at 10:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. GMT). Early poll estimates will give an idea of ​​the outcome as soon as they close, before the results are released until the early hours of the morning.

How big will be the Labour victory and the defeat of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has been unable to create any momentum after 20 months in office? How will the breakthrough of the anti-immigration and anti-system Reform UK party, led by former Brexit champion Nigel Farage, translate into the ballot box?

In the polls, Labour is leading with an average of 40% of voting intentions compared to 22% for the Conservatives, 16% for the nationalist Reform party and 10% for the Liberal Democrats (centrists).

According to the latest seat projection by YouGov, this would mean 431 MPs for Labour to 102 for the Tories – a majority not seen in the UK since 1832, according to the poll that made the front page of the Times. The Lib Dems would win 78 seats and Reform three, allowing Nigel Farage to enter parliament after seven failed attempts.

– Rain and blunders –
For Rishi Sunak, the fifth Conservative Prime Minister in 14 years, these elections mark the end of a campaign that turned into a path to suffering.

The 44-year-old former investment banker and finance minister has made a series of gaffes and appeared to lack political acumen, cutting short his appearance at celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings and slowing to respond to suspicions of fraudulent betting in his camp over the date of the elections.

His strategy has mainly consisted of accusing Labour of wanting to raise taxes, then in recent days warning of the risks of a “super majority” which would leave Labour without a countervailing power, effectively admitting defeat.

On the other side, Keir Starmer highlighted his modest origins – a mother who is a nurse and a father who is a toolmaker – in contrast to his multimillionaire opponent. To cut the grass under the right's attacks and make people forget the expensive programme of his predecessor at the head of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, he promised very rigorous management of public spending, without increasing taxes.

He is counting on restored stability, state intervention and investment in infrastructure to revive growth, which should help to restore public services in decline since the austerity of the early 2010s.

He wants to be tough on migration issues and move closer to the European Union – without joining it. But he has already warned that he has no “magic wand” and the British, in the polls, are showing no illusions about the prospects for change.

While his caution has sometimes led to accusations of lacking ambition, it has helped Labour garner support in business circles and in the right-wing press.

After the Financial Times and The Economist magazine, it was the tabloid The Sun which called on Wednesday to vote Labour.

“The time for change has come,” says the popular newspaper owned by tycoon Rupert Murdoch, whose swing to Labour in 1997 proved crucial to Tony Blair's victory.

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